Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for January 12th, 2009

Updates on recent posts

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Quite often when I have written about a story I will go back to it and update it. I am not sure if that actually meets my readers’ needs. Would you go back and look for an update?

So here are a couple of links which add significant new information to a recent post here

Firstly more on the Olympic Village: the Mayor of Vancouver now wants the Province to amend the Vancouver charter so that he can borrow the  money needed to finish the project. There’s lots of finger pointing and blame being thrown around and, as I noted earlier, both Gordon and Stephen are publicly trying to steer clear. On the CBC this evening former Mayor Philip Owen was stepping in saying that the condos will be worth something after 2010 – but it seems unlikely that they fetch more than $1m each, which is what is needed to break even.

Also in the Sun, there is now a provincial report that provides evidence of a link between power lines and leukemia – something that up to now the province has been denying.

Living close to high-voltage power lines may produce one additional case of leukemia every two years in B.C., according to “ballpark assumptions” by B.C. Centre for Disease Control environmental health experts.

The projection by Dr. Ray Copes, director of the environmental health services division and Prabjit Barn, an environmental health scientist, is in an article headlined “Is living near power lines bad for our health?” in the November issue of the B.C. Medical Journal (BCMJ).

But of course the porvince is also now denying that this has anything to do with the unprecedented offer to buy out homeowners impacted by the power line upgrade in Tsawwassen. Well, they would, wouldn’t they.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 12, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

The Premier and PM Made an Announcement

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Being only a blogger I was not allowed to get inside to hear it. I will have to pick it up later on once the mainstream media have done their thing.

Outside a small group of protesters were being very careful not to block traffic – not that there was very much to get blocked. Surrey Fraser Docks are obviously feeling the pinch of tough economic times as well.  River Road showed no signs of the congestion that is supposed to justify building a major road through sensitive ecological areas, sacred First Nation sites and a number of communities.

Of course the stage management of these announcements has to be very careful. Quite why it needs to be held inside the secure area of the port with no-one but accredited press allowed in I will leave to the participants to explain. I doubt if any of those huddled in the drizzle outside would have thrown their shoes at anyone. Many were people directly impacted  – all they had to do was cross the road to join the protest. But of course on a Monday afternoon most people will have been at work or school.

Once I find some coverage to link to, I will update but for now here is the official communique

I am currently watching “Vancouver at 6” on CBC – and yes they had footage of Campbell and Harper  from this afternoon’s farago. No they did not cover the announcement. The story was the Flase Creek athletes’ village. No mention of Gateway or SFPR.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 12, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Gateway

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Does the Northwest Passage still matter?

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J L Granatstein has a think piece in the Globe today about sovereignty and environmental protection in the Arctic. Which is both necessary and worthwhile.

But the reason I want to draw attention to it is that is is becoming accepted that there will be an ice free Arctic fairly soon

expectations are that the North Pole may be ice-free within five to 15 years, thus opening a much shorter over-the-Pole route for cargo vessels and giant oil and gas tankers.

Now the obvious question is that if there is to be this new, direct route, why are BC and Canada continuing to pour resources into a Pacific Gateway? In the same time period the newly enlarged Panama Canal will be opened. The overland route through Vancouver – and other West Coast ports – is simply not going to be as attractive as it once was.

Yet today Premier Campbell and Prime Minister Harper will be announcing the Gateway/SFPR – and quite possibly H1PM2 as well. Yet the whole trade argument for these roads died several years ago now when the US economy stopped buying vast amounts of stuff from China. Now we can trade forecasts over how long the current recession/depression is going to last but most agree it is not going to be a short term thing and the long run looks like a very different future for the US dollar as a trading currency.

And when, or if, the trade picks up again, you can bet the shippers will be looking for the cheapest routes to operate since oil will not be anything like as cheap then as it is now.

Sadly, Canadians have shown themselves to be very prone to make this kind of forecasting error. The St Lawrence Seaway was a major international engineering achievement – and mostly irrelevant after it opened. Toronto built a huge complex of docks into Lake Ontario that was largely unused – although the practice of tipping fill into the lake continued for long after it became clear that port expansion was never going to be needed. The expansion of Deltaport is also going to be seen in future as one of the worst decisions made in this region – until the folly of the freeway expansion that is.

It is not too late. Even at this stage it would be possible to stop this monumentally backward plan and come up with something that is both necessary and sustainable. Although that would require two of Canada’s most stubborn politicians to admit that they were mislead.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 12, 2009 at 10:34 am

Posted in Gateway